Tag: Law Enforcement

Torture and Police Reparations


image_miniThis week, the city of Chicago has approved a reparations package that will supply money and benefits to men with credible claims to have been tortured by the “Midnight Crew” of Police Commander John Burge. Burge appears to have used suffocation, electrical shocks, and Russian roulette-style “fake executions” to force confessions out of more than 200 people in the ’70s and early ’80s.

The department fired him in 1993, and a 2002 investigation turned up serious evidence of abuse. Burge wasn’t charged because the statute of limitations had elapsed on his offenses. However, he did serve four and a half years for perjury and obstruction of justice (relating to a civil suit filed against him) and was only recently released. He’s currently drawing a police pension.

What do we think of all this? To me it seems pretty clear that Burge’s tactics were far beyond the range of acceptable police behavior. Whether or not you would classify his “Midnight Crew’s” activities as torture (which I think we plausibly should), using “extreme interrogation tactics” to coerce confessions is obviously unjust. It’s somewhat interesting that the settlement offered by the city is relatively small ($5.5 million) in comparison to the costs already incurred from related judgments and legal costs, and also that it also includes provisions for counseling, job training and other services for victims. (They’re also erecting a monument. Hmm.)

A Word of Caution for Those Who Throw Bricks at Firefighters


Baltimore_City_Fire_Department_With today being the 23rd anniversary of the start of the Rodney King Riot in Los Angeles, I was watching footage out of Baltimore and recalling that long-ago night when the world’s attention turned to the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues in South Los Angeles. As was the case in Los Angeles then, the city leaders in Baltimore this past week failed to see the signs of impending trouble that were clear to cops on the street. In both cities, the higher up the chain of command you looked, the more obtuseness you seemed to find. And in both cities, the mayors were complete failures when the crisis came. (Five years ago, I wrote on PJ Media about the failure of some LAPD managers – I refuse to call them “leaders” – to take charge and do what was necessary in those first early hours of the riot. You can find that piece here.)

There are many analogies to be drawn between the L.A. Riot and the one in Baltimore, but one that stands out in particular is the way firefighters in the two cities were treated by the mob. “If you wanted to be loved,” I was told as a young cop, “you should have joined the Fire Department.” As a general matter that saying is true, but not when the rioting starts, apparently.

Images from Baltimore of fire hoses being cut, and of fire engines being pelted with rocks, bricks, and bottles as they sped to a fire reminded me of what I saw in Los Angeles on the second or third night of the ‘92 riot. At the intersection of 108th and Main Streets in South Los Angeles, a fire station stands on one side of 108th and a police station stands on the other. As the rioting grew more intense — and as resources from beyond Los Angeles County were brought in to assist — 108th Street between Main and Broadway was blocked off to serve as a staging area for police cars and fire apparatus. (If you’re wondering, Broadway in South Los Angeles is nothing at all like Broadway in New York.)

A Monster of Our Own Making


shutterstock_178632971In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. – James Madison, Federalist 51

In an article in National Review David French details how Wisconsin failed the challenge of that second great difficulty. The short version is that overzealous, partisan prosecutors politicized law enforcement and weaponized politics to harass supporters of Governor Scott Walker’s reforms in the Badger State.

Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10 — also called the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill,” it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs’ frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking.

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 I am frequently called to scenes of sudden or violent death. It turns out that this is something the Medical Examiner’s assistant in Ferguson, Missouri and I have in common, so I read the transcript of the his testimony before the Ferguson Grand Jury with considerable sympathy.  Preview Open

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David Deeble directed me to this story at the Washington Post, which in turn cites Ben Swann’s website. Basically, an 11-year-old student remarked on his mother’s use of cannabis oil during an anti-marijuana presentation at school, after which the boy was seized by CPS and the mother’s home was forcibly searched for illegal drugs. There […]

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Here Is Why We Have Problems with Law Enforcement


shutterstock_56280433If you’re conservative (and you are, if you’re reading this), you’ve heard the general narrative on the decline of culture in urban centers from individuals like the Rev. C.L. Bryant. Of course, he speaks of the new slavery that is government dependence, but more importantly, in the context of law enforcement, he talks about the lack of respect in black inner-city neighborhoods. It is not just the lack of respect for authority in the form of police officers, but also a severe lack of self-respect.

Theoretically, this is something that could be fixed, with the encouragement of small business development, school choice, and intervention programs for at-risk youth — the current liberal-speak for young people that are very likely to end up in the juvenile detention systems and later in adult prisons. I know this is a severe oversimplification of a complex societal problem, but there are already volumes of information out there on these facets of the problems faced by law enforcement today.

It could be argued that because of the antipathy that is shown to police officers in general, particularly in urban centers, the officers themselves have become hardened. The days of the friendly “Andy Griffith from Mayberry” police are gone, or at least mostly so. At some point in the past couple of decades, it seems that police academies stopped teaching future officers to differentiate between law-abiding citizens and felons. Everyone is a potential felon and everyone is a potential threat, or so it seems. In the wake of the shooting in South Carolina, it’s even more difficult to muster sympathy for this mentality, in spite of the fact that from all appearances so far, the officer involved in that shooting probably wasn’t a sterling example of what law enforcement personnel should be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile to dig at least a little to determine how we’ve gotten to this point.

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With a hat tip to Chicks On the Right, this little piggy went to mosque:  In the wake of the brutal murder of British soldier Lee Rigby by two radical Muslims, four British men from Blackpool formulated a plan to exact revenge by tossing the head of a pig into the parking lot of a local mosque. […]

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Since clearly not all stories can be national stories some of the more interesting local ones never quite get the traction for a wider audience and end up buried, quickly forgotten. This is one of those stories. The City by the Bay, San Francisco. Famed world wide for its iconic landmarks, exceedingly liberal politics and […]

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Guns, Birkenstocks, and Beer


shutterstock_120816094I’ll admit this much up front: I’m not a gun person. I’ve tried to like guns. Some of my favorite people are gun nuts, so I’ve been treated to long disquisitions on the virtues of different kinds and calibers and sat through long debates on the merits of the Glock this and the Winchester that.

I attend firearms training with new recruits to our agency and fire a few rounds with a 9mm SIG Sauer and a patrol assault rifle (AR-15). As long as I’ve got my tongue poking out of the corner of my mouth, I can put a hurtin’ on a paper bowling pin at three yards (CQB). I really enjoyed watching the recruits learning, and love watching the instructors who are so expert at something that (having tried it) I know is difficult.

I liked stripping and cleaning the guns afterward, like the smell of gun oil, but the shooting itself? I’m sorry: it’s loud and dangerous — and so far — at least, just not my thing.

The DOJ Inflames Racial Tensions in Ferguson


FergusonThough it has scarcely garnered the attention it deserves, the U.S. Department of Justice has released a report exonerating Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, Missouri. As I note in my new column for Defining Ideas, the Justice Department should, in the interest of civic harmony, be doing everything it can to call attention to the report’s findings:

What the DOJ now has to do is to acknowledge that the killing of Michael Brown was a justifiable homicide. It must abandon its contrived legalisms and defend Wilson, by condemning unequivocally the entire misguided campaign against him, which resulted in threats against his life and forced his resignation from the police force. Eric Holder owes Wilson an apology for the unnecessary anguish that Wilson has suffered. As the Attorney General for all Americans, he must tell the protestors once and for all that their campaign has been thoroughly misguided from start to finish, and that their continued protests should stop in the interests of civic peace and racial harmony. In light of the past vilification of Wilson, it is not enough for the DOJ to publish the report, and not trumpet its conclusions. It is necessary to put that report front and center in the public debate so that everyone now understands that Wilson behaved properly throughout the entire incident.

At the same time, however, the DOJ has issued a report claiming systemic prejudice in the Ferguson Police Department, an odd conclusion given that the investigation was surely undertaken to identify the “root causes” of Wilson’s misbehavior — misbehavior that they now admit did not occur. As I write:

How Can You Not Know This?


shutterstock_172810082I have a peculiar area of expertise: I know a lot about death. Well, more precisely, I know more than the average person about bereavement, especially sudden, violent bereavement. I have come by this through my own losses, dedicated study, and, especially, through nearly 15 years of experience as a law enforcement chaplain. Law enforcement officers often have the sad duty of performing what is known as “death notification,” and it is one they gladly hand off to the chaplain whenever possible. It is one of the subjects I teach at our academy.

A few years ago, I began to receive invitations from members of the medical profession who wished to learn more about death notification. The first time the state’s chapter of the American Academy of Surgeons asked me to address their meeting, I was puzzled. After all, these were doctors: highly educated professionals that must regularly (if reluctantly) come face-to-face with death. “Don’t you know more about this than I do?” I asked.

Apparently not. So I went and spoke about the very early stages of bereavement: the first seconds, minutes, hours after news of a loved one’s decease has been transmitted. And as the assembled surgeons nodded, took notes, and intelligently asked what seemed to me pretty basic questions, I kept thinking how can you not know this? 

The Incentive to Steal: Asset Forfeiture and Police Abuse


Recently, R. Seth Williams, District Attorney of Philadelphia, wrote in praise of asset forfeiture laws, undoubtedly in response to the ongoing suit challenging the city’s forfeiture program. Mr. Williams defends asset forfeiture as necessary to root out the drug trade. He asks us to

Think about the kid who can’t play outside anymore because he might get caught in the cross fire; the grandmother who’s threatened by dealers when she just wants to sit on her porch; the homeowner … who has to watch [his house] value plummet when his block becomes an open-air drug market.

How Extensive is the Problem of Police Abuse?


shutterstock_144637685It seems that hardly a week goes by without a new story of a seemingly unwarranted police shooting, mistaken arrest, wrongful prosecution, or wrongful conviction making the news. We have had a rather fierce debate here on Ricochet about whether the police are out of hand, going back years in some cases. It’s not like we are starved for examples, whether they are SWAT raids gone awry, armed interventions to euthanize a deer, traffic stops where the officers seem to have overreacted, and so on.

The questions that have not been directly asked so far (though have been often debated in the comments) are: 1. How extensive are the actual problems? 2. Are we seeing an actual rise in problematic behaviors or are we merely noticing them more in this age of instantaneous outrage and ubiquitous cameras? 3. Were police abuses as common (or uncommon) in the past, but simply more hidden from view? 4. Are we conflating different problems? Specifically, are we painting with too broad a brush, or are we mixing different problem sets and thus missing the the actual state of things? I ask the latter with regards to the mixed jurisdictions and responsibilities of local, state, and federal law enforcement.

Dash cameras in cruisers are a fairly recent innovation. YouTube has existed for only a decade. Body cameras were impractical until very recently. Internet reporting, with its ability to rapidly disseminate information (or disinformation), only goes back 20 years. There is a strong argument to be made that we are all still novices in attempting to discern the real stories from the manufactured anger, and that we actually enjoy (or at least receive a certain satisfaction and endorphin rush) whenever some new abuse comes to light. Tabloid reporting, yellow journalism, and manufactured outrage are certainly nothing new in the news. Only the veneer of “objective reporting” is really new, and we know how thin that veneer really is. Ferguson demonstrated rather clearly that many on the left actively seek to undermine local and state authority if it will serve their own ends, and that the media seem to be the last to see or acknowledge the truth.

Truth, Justice and the American Waze


A few months back I downloaded a cool traffic app called Waze. At its heart is a basic GPS program like Google Maps, but it adds a social networking layer to provide real-time information to drivers. Unsurprisingly, Google bought the company, so you can expect to see the two apps integrated soon.

Here’s how it works: When I get in my new Maserati (okay, 2001 Toyota… whatever), I open Waze and it shows any traffic events occurring in my area. As I drive, warnings pop up for vehicles on the side of the road, freeway crashes, and delays. If I see a new traffic snag, I can report it through Waze to help other drivers going my way.

‘Bob, He’s Gonna Kill Me’


As America oscillates through the recent civic upheaval in its concepts of policing, it has been hard to miss that the conversation is very uninformed. While it is imperative that the citizens of a democracy set the rules by which the laws are enforced, it is equally imperative that they understand the repercussions.

Just as football fans would ignore the opinions of TV talking heads who’ve never stepped foot in a stadium (never mind never actually played the game), citizens should be extremely wary of politicians and yaktivists who condemn police tactics without understanding their underlying principles.

Thoughts on the Killing of Eric Garner


About five years ago I worked in a group home with ten developmentally disabled adults. That kind of human services field requires some training, because without meaning to, people, human beings, who often can’t care for themselves, can be accidentally killed by the staff.

The folks I worked with all had, and this is the technical term, profound mental retardation. It took different forms in different people, and some of the people I worked with had behaviors. So each resident had an individualized behavioral support plan. Something along the lines of “If they do this behavior X, you should do Y.” And the responses to a behavior always started with the least invasive and worked towards the most invasive.

Post-Ferguson: Bridging the Gap Between Protector and Protected


Having followed policing issues professionally and personally for more than two decades, the events of recent weeks frustrated me deeply. I’ve experienced more than 35 ride-alongs with departments across Southern California and covered hundreds of criminal investigations. I’ve seen many of the strengths, weaknesses and changes of modern policing and developed a sense for the dissonance between public expectations and the realities of safely capturing miscreants.

The solution was revealed in something I jokingly suggested to a frustrated LAPD friend as he fumed that the local Ferguson protesters he dealt with “have no idea how this job works.” “You’re right,” I said, “you ought to hand out (police) recruiting flyers to them. Just say ‘you can be the solution.’”

DeBlasio vs. DeBlasio


A Staten Island grand jury voted not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner. In August, Ofc. Daniel Pantaleo attempted to arrest Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, employing a chokehold which led to the man’s death.

Since Pantaleo is white and Garner black, the case is often compared to the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo. That has only intensified since the decision not to bring criminal charges was made public earlier today.

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I have had the misfortune of knowing two individuals in my life who I can confidently call narcissistic sociopaths. Their moral disregard for even their closest relatives and friends is shocking. They are as cruel to children and elders as to peers. At their best, they are either dismissive or manipulative. When angered, often by […]

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